It’ll be a relief when it’s over. The American presidential election campaign has been one of the most toxic, unpleasant, aggressive campaigns ever. Anyone versed in European history will see uncomfortable echoes of the horrors of the past; the comparisons are clichéd and obvious enough to not require overstating. Still, the idea of a depraved demagogue rolling back America’s centuries of republican democracy is deeply disturbing. No matter how flawed that country’s tradition is and how loosely it has sometimes adhered to its own principles, it doesn’t deserve Donald Trump.
Despite his blatant lack of any political credentials or serious ideology beyond a hatred of immigrants and a disregard for democratic process, Trump has somehow muddled into this position and it is genuinely frightening to think of where this could lead. Admittedly, Clinton is the very strong favourite. Trump has crawled back in the polls after a non-specific ‘revelation’ related to Clinton’s email case (it makes you wonder how big a revelation can be if nobody specifies what is revealed, but the little I can garner suggests this is to do with Clinton’s aide’s estranged husband and nothing to do with the candidate herself) but he is still some way behind. Obama built a solid base of support, and it would take a lot for Trump to roll this back. Even if he wins practically all of the swing states, Clinton is still in a strong position. I’m not as confident as I was two weeks ago when landslide seemed likely, but I am confident Clinton will win.
What is more important is the dangerously anti-democratic streak unleashed by Trump. His dog-whistle claims about vote rigging and suggestions he may not concede the election have given license to every kind of redneck idiot, from paranoid conspiracy nuts to gun-obsessed vigilantes. I can’t help but feel this is a very dangerous situation, with violence looming around the corner. Last night, somebody literally shouted “gun” in the crowded space of a Trump rally. Somewhere in the vicinity, an anti-Trump Republican was badly beaten by Trump supporters for holding a sign he printed off the internet. This is not a major incident in international terms, but I worry that the level of aggression sparked by this awful man could do serious damage to democracy.